This Time Last Year – Part 21: A geology tour of Attica

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 8 2016 – Athens (Attica Peninsula)

Today I am pursuing my other passion. Geology. I had heard about a Mineral Museum in Lavrio and the ancient silver mines through Matt Barrett’s Greece Travel page on Facebook. I worked out how to get to Lavrio by bus but thought there must be a better way and with a bit of sleuthing uncovered Vasilis Antoniou’s GeoNature Tours. And one of those tours was Lavrio, the Secret of Ancient Athens. Perfect I thought – until I read the fine print. Oh no. Minimum two. I emailed Vasilis, said I would love to go on his tour and gave him some background on my visit to Greece.

He said he normally wouldn’t do the trip for one person but because I was from down under and had chosen his tour, special rules applied :-) The €140 price would be the same with lunch included. We would visit the ancient mining area, the mineral museum and the Temple of Poseidon. As well we could drive through Porto Rafti, where my father’s 18 Battalion departed for Crete. Vasilis said he was not aware of the Anzac forces and their contribution in Greece in 1941. He  said that some parts of Greece’s recent history are not known to the extent they should.

Vasilis picks me up from St Thomas B&B and we head east towards the coast to Vravrona, and the estuarine delta of the Erasinos River. The Temple of Artemis is here.

Temple of Artemis at Vravrona on the Attica Coast

There are nature trails to the wetlands with info boards about the plants, insects, animals and birdlife. A shepherd is grazing his sheep along one of the trails. The birds are being evasive today, however.

We swing through the seaside village of Porto Rafti then south to the silver fields and Lavrio. Vasilis explains that silver mining started here 5000 years ago. The ores were discovered in the contact zones of the limestone base rock and schist intrusions. They pay area was 20km long and 5 km wide and tunnels, 40-60cm in diameter, were worked by the smallest of slaves. Modern mining of the area being in the late 1800s. There are mine tailings everywhere – including the metal base of the road.

Vasilis at a 3000 year old dam on the way to Lavrio.

The Mineral Museum was an absolute highlight. Minerals, minerals everywhere.

Ogling a humungous specimen of the hydrated copper carbonate mineral ‘Azurite’

Gorgeous mineral specimens collected from the Lavrio area.

Click here for information, opening hours and overview of the museum, while oryktologikomouseiokamarizas is a blog about the museum in Greek.

We lunch at a lovely wooded park area where there is gigantic sinkhole called ‘Chaos’, then it is onto the first site of the ancient mines.

Follow this sign to the ancient mines

Old workings at he ancient mine site

Part of the ‘Helicular’ washing system for separating the heavy silver metal from the wash. The troughs were hand carved by the slaves and have worn over time.

We reach the bottom of the Attica Peninsula and Cape Sounion. The famous Temple of Poseidon is a day trip from Athens and busload after busload of tourists are disgorged here.

Me at Cape Sounion, the famous Temple of Poseidon in the background.

Vasilis made this map that roughly covers our route for the day.

Map of the route of my GeoNature tour

It’s been great to have this personal tour with a geologist who has an intimate knowledge of the area and is interested in birds and nature as well as rocks. In my opinion it was worth every Euro and I would definitely recommend to those with a geology / rockhound bent.

Tonight is my last night in Greece. Back at St Thomas B&B I open the bottle of Vaeni Dogmatikos that was in my gift pack from the winery. It is a ‘blanc de noir’, a white wine made from xinomavro grapes and presented in a pretty bottle. It’s fresh, crisp and tasty with hints of ripe apple, crisp pear, a suggestion of melon and tingly spices. I share a glass with B&B host Janet.

Vaeni Dogmatikos from Naoussa, a ‘blanc de noir’ made from xinomavro grapes.

I have three wines to pack. The Mercouri Foloi white and two Vaeni reds. I swaddle them in my clothing so they arrive safely in the USA.

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